We can talk more about this episode of DS9 on Wednesday, because for now, holy butts, let’s celebrate:
100 strips! The big hundo! The rolling odometer! The First Century L.T.!
How did that even happen? That’s fifteen hundred panels, give or take; on the order of twenty thousand words of dialogue. We’ve exchanged over eighteen hundred comments about the strip, the shows, physics, linguistics, metaphysics, exobiology, Riker’s overactive libido, Picard’s stilted lovelessness, Wes’ odd childhood enthusiasms, and further and yon.
I wrote a little about how this all started, back when I first reworked the initial couple of goofy images that evolved into this canonical cutout-heads square panel format and turned larptrek.com into an actual site; it was originally just a one-off joke, a five minute comic rant over drinks about parallelism between TNG and DS9, something I’d envisioned as a single largish jpeg pairing one character to another and then over and done with. Those were my expectations.
And, somehow, here we are. I’m glad this has found its legs; I didn’t entirely expect it to do so. When I’d done ten strips, I was sure I had the material to make it to twenty; when I hit twenty, I’d run through my backlog of jokes and looking forward from there thirty felt doable, sure, but I was already feeling nervous.
The well can run dry easily and abruptly, for me, especially when it’s a new well and I don’t really have any idea how deep it is or how good my bucket it is. And I’ve got a big yard full of dry wells and leaky buckets behind me, as the unfortunate fans of some of my other creative projects can attest. I love a new idea, and I love working on something while it’s still coming easily to me, but when a roadblock comes, or when the shine just comes well and truly off and it just feels like work instead of fun, I often get dispirited and just go do Something Else. Usually with the assurance to myself that I’ll get back to it, any day now, until any day now’s become any month and then any year.
I think it was somewhere around Larp Trek #50 that I started to properly get over the nerves and feel a sense of momentum. Working my way through all the good and bad of the Deep Space Nine pilot, all the fun character notes and odd exposition and clumsy dream-sequence plotting, it started to hit me that my problem at that point was not no material but too much, that more than anything I had to start to think about what would happen with the strip after I got done spending 40-something strips dealing with a single episode of a show that ran weekly for seven season. Milking DS9 for Larp Trek reference material turns out to be the easy part; dealing with stuff concisely and finding ways to encapsulate some little episode idea in seventeen panels instead of a hundred and seventy is the bigger challenge.
And I’ve ended up enjoying writing these Next Generation characters as characters more than I’d ever expected.
I came into this looking for Deep Space Nine joke fodder, for easy X Is Like Y, Amirite connections between one show’s cast and the other; but at this point I have as hard a time as anything just keeping them even talking about the game. I sit down and start writing around some kernel of an idea about an episode and how it might play out in this Deep Space Nine RPG context, and if I’m not careful I’ll end up writing two panels about the episode and fifteen panels about whatever the hell is going on with Miles and Keiko at the moment. The characters have gotten lives of their own, somehow.
I’ve mentioned a couple times before the odd experience it’s been for me to realize that for once what I’m doing is less purely commentary from a distance and more something like straight-up fanfic. I’ve never thought of myself like that; I have always enjoyed outright snarking at or deconstruction of bits of pop culture from a distance, even if out of a place of love for the material in question (mine and my wife’s work on Mulder’s Big Adventure is a prime example of this, speaking of wells and any-year-nows), but now I’m sitting around more directly inhabiting these fictional versions of fictional crewmen, not so much joking about them from arm’s length but joking as them, joking with them, trying to keep myself honest about what I think my version of Riker or Picard or Troi or Geordi would actually think and feel in this context.
I’m writing a very strange, specific sort of episodic spec script; I’m writing something that in my wildest dreams I could sit down and watch these folks actually shoot for Funny Or Die or something. It’s sort of a new thing for me.
I do a thing, whenever I start a new serial project where I need to generate e.g. an art asset like a .psd or a .jpeg for each entry, where I name the files with a prefix and then a three digit number. larptrek-001.jpg, larptrek-002.jpg, etc. I could just do larptrek-1.jpg and so on, but then, I tell myself, what about when I get to ten and have to add a digit? What about when I get to a hundred and have to add another? The files won’t sort correctly by name then! A disaster, somehow, might be lurking there, though I’ve never encountered the specific situation where it would. It’s a small, pedantic thing, an abundance of caution over what is practically speaking a non-issue.
But I think this is the first serial project I’ve done where I’ve actually rolled over that first digit. It’s a tiny thing; it’s a huge thing. I’ve thought about it every time I’ve saved a new strip. So I feel absurdly vindicated. I made it to a hundred.
Now I can start worrying about what to do when I hit a thousand.
It’s been a good time, a weird, fun, how-did-I-get-here time, and I see it continuing to be one. There’s a whole lot of Deep Space Nine left, and no reason the TNG crew couldn’t eventually get around to exploring other campaign settings if that well does, eventually, end up seeming to be a bit low on the ol’ moisture content. It’s been gratifying to me to write this for the writing’s sake, and to keep it going for the sake of persistence.
But it’s also been gratifying to find an audience, a niche in more than once sense, of happy fellow travelers in this strange narrative. All you folks, you mefites and trek nerds and gamers, who keep coming back and talking about the strip and the show and the characters and the typos (oh, the typos!) really make this for me; there are few things I like more than conversation about something I’m enthusiastic about, and I want to thank all of you for being a part of that these last several months.
Here’s to two hundred.